Why dressage is like sailing

My brother hates horses and everyone knows it. He prefers sailing. I hate the ocean and everyone knows it. I am definitely afraid of sailing, as a result.

We had an equal love for our own sport and equal dislike of our sibling’s. For better or worse, our childhood was spent between horse shows and sailing trips – where one of us was miserable and the other completely in their element… then we traded. In an attempt to save myself from drowning, I picked up some skills at sea.

For example, the boat is driven by wind energy. In order to harness that energy, you can either have a sail that catches the wind slightly from the left and pushes the boat right and forward OR you can have wind from the right, that pushes the boat left and forward OR you can have wind from behind that pushes the boat forward. When you have wind from the side, the boat goes forward, but it also tips over slightly.

What I find fascinating about this is how the boat tips one way and you feel the energy shift to one side of the boat, while it maintains a forward energy forward as well.

So why is sailing like dressage?

Because when you get on a horse that is unbalanced, you can imagine how they are like that boat with the wind/energy coming from one side or another – not straight from behind to the front. You feel that they lean into one rein/leg, like that tilting boat. They continue forward, but they aren’t upright like the boat with the energy coming from behind.

When we ride a horse that is tilting, we have uneven energy. In dressage, you want a horse with the “wind” coming straight from behind. If you feel that you have 20 pounds of energy in your right rein and only 2 pounds in your left rein, you are probably going around like that tilted boat.

Now imagine that your leg aid on the heavy/tilting side is a wave that is coming from the other direction of the boat, helping to put you more upright again. What happens when you leg yield your horse from that heavy/tilting right side into a catching, left side? You should feel like you have straightened your boat out again and the wind is coming from behind.

Your horse will most likely have a side that they prefer to tilt to. If it is the right side, try riding a 25-meter circle on the right lead to encourage your horse to stay upright and ride a 18-meter circle on the left lead to prevent him from falling out on his tilting side.

Before you know it, you should have a more balanced horse.

Now, if only I could convince my brother that dressage will help his sailing…






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